(Update 1: adds details from Kyiv, changes dateline and headline and lede, edits throughout)
Moscow, Mar 21 (EFE).- Ukraine has rejected Russia’s deadline to surrender Mariupol by 5 am (03:00 GMT) on Monday, an official said.
Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told Ukrainian news outlet Ukrainska Pravda that the Russian defense ministry sent an eight-page letter to Kyiv “with a return to history and other nonsense.”
“There can be no talk of any surrender, laying down of arms. We have already informed the Russian side about this. I wrote: ‘Instead of wasting time on eight pages of letters, just open a corridor,'” she added.
The deputy PM said that Kyiv has informed the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and that they await the reaction of the international community.
“This is a conscious manipulation and a real hostage taking of people,” she denounced.
The deputy PM added that “we have facts that they kidnap children from orphanages and do not allow us to take them.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday described the siege of Mariupol as “an act of terror that will be remembered for centuries to come.”
Some 400,000 people have been trapped in Mariupol for more than two weeks amid heavy shelling that has cut off central electricity, heating and water supplies, according to local sources.
Russia’s relentless bombardment of the city has killed uncounted civilians and Ukrainian military personnel and devastated a large portion of the Black Sea coastal city.
On Sunday, Moscow issued an ultimatum to Ukrainian military forces in Mariupol to surrender and leave the coastal city before 5 am on Monday or face a “military tribunal.”
Mikhail Mizintsev, the head of Russia’s National Center for Defense Management, said at a defense ministry briefing that Ukrainian forces who surrender and lay down their arms will be allowed to leave the city “safely and without any danger to their lives.”
He said that if Ukrainian forces in Mariupol agreed to surrender, humanitarian corridors for civilians would be opened so that civilians could leave the city.
Starting at midday on Monday, he said, Russia would allow humanitarian convoys to enter the city with food, medicines and basic items dispatched from Kyiv and from parts of Ukraine not under the control of Russian forces.
He also called on international organizations like the United Nations and the International Red Cross to send their representatives to the city to supervise the evacuation of civilians, adding that local residents would be allowed to select the humanitarian corridor via which they would exit or could remain in the city.
The Ukrainian government admitted two days ago that it has no way of sending military reinforcements to Mariupol, which is surrounded by Russian forces, with officials saying that the closest Ukrainian troops are more than 100 kilometers (62 miles) away and involved in other combat operations. EFE